Bag of Bones by Stephen King

August 5, 2012

Plot summary (from the publisher): Four years after the sudden death of his wife, bestselling novelist Mike Noonan is still grieving, unable to write, and plagued by vivid nightmares set at Sara Laughs, the Maine summerhouse that seems to be calling to him. Reluctantly returning to the lakeside getaway, Mike finds a small town in the soulless grip of a powerful millionaire, a single mother fighting to keep her three-year-old daughter, and a miasma of ghostly visitations and escalating terrors at his remote cabin. Drawn to Mattie’s dilemma and falling in love with her and with young Kyra, Mike must still face the terrifying forces that have been unleashed at the lake’s edge—what do they want with Mike Noonan?

Warning: Major spoilers below!

Liked:

  • I liked that Mike and Mattie didn’t end up together. That ending would have been far too happy and trite.
  • I enjoyed getting some insight into the writing process. For example, I didn’t know that some authors might “stockpile” their manuscripts if they have a particularly productive year, giving themselves a safety net for the lean years. Whenever we hear that a writer has returned to “classic form” or something, it could be that they’re just using a manuscript from many years ago!
  • I wanted to hear more about how Devore made his millions. I know it had something to do with computers, but I’m not sure if he was in the reseller website hosting business or if he sold hardware or what.
  • Reading about the steno mask made me curious enough to look it up on Google. Now that is scary!

Disliked:

  • The goings on at Sara Laughs weren’t very scary — but only because Mike wasn’t scared of them. Ostensibly, unexplained screams, self-ringing bells, and refrigerator magnets that spontaneously spell out messages should be frightening. However, since Mike pretty much took those things in stride, the reader can’t help but do the same.
  • Kyra was not written well, IMO. In some parts, she was far more eloquent than any 3-year-old girl should be, speaking in full sentences and so forth. In others, she sounded more like a typical toddler. King seemed to modify her linguistic abilities based on what was required for the scene.
  • This book was long and boooorrrrriiiinnnng in many places. I know King books are far longer than standard thrillers, but in this one the length hardly seemed justified. There were frequent stretches of a 50 pages or more where NOTHING HAPPENED. Frustrating.
  • What was the purpose of the Sara Tidwell character? Were we supposed to feel that she was justified in haunting the house and the offspring of the men who raped her and killed her and her son? It certainly seemed like she had a decent case against them. But wouldn’t that mean that we should have been rooting for Kyra to die since she was a Devore descendant? That whole thing was rather confusing.
  • Mike trying to adopt Kyra doesn’t seem right. What “claim” does he have on that child, that he *almost* slept with her mother? That they traveled back in time together? I don’t know; I just didn’t like that part.
  • Nothing about Jo felt real, including Mike’s deep-felt love for her. Having her die right at the beginning of the book forced the reader to hear about their relationship through exposition — telling rather than showing. As a result, I didn’t get why he was so hung up on her for so long.

Rating:

I’ve read enough Stephen King to know that his books are entirely a hit or miss proposition. Bag of Bones just happens to be a miss for me, though I’m sure lots of his fans like it just fine. It was too long, too boring, and too ambiguous in its message about Sara for me to appreciate it fully. I give this one 2 stars out of 5.

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